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Varian Johnson

Author of The Parker Inheritance

15+ Works 2,572 Members 84 Reviews

About the Author

Includes the name: VarianJohnson

Image credit: Sara Crowe, Literary Agent

Works by Varian Johnson

Associated Works

Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America (2019) — Contributor — 523 copies
Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood (2021) — Contributor — 156 copies
Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices (2013) — Contributor — 130 copies
Things I'll Never Say: Stories About Our Secret Selves (2015) — Contributor — 25 copies


adventure (14) African American (49) African Americans (19) ARC (13) black (32) bullying (15) children's (17) civil rights (37) divorce (17) elections (13) family (29) fantasy (13) fiction (91) friendship (63) grade 5 (16) grade 6 (14) graphic novel (52) historical fiction (36) history (17) J Fiction (12) juvenile (13) kids (12) LGBTQ (18) middle grade (37) middle school (41) multicultural (14) mystery (106) non-fiction (15) puzzles (17) racism (36) realistic (14) realistic fiction (37) school (19) sisters (13) South Carolina (20) sports (14) to-read (102) twins (15) YA (22) young adult (30)

Common Knowledge



Great audiobook narrator; he was the perfect narrative voice.

10-year-old Ant is teased about being small and weak. But is it really weak to be a nice person and talk about your feelings? Ant's best friend has bullying tendencies and seems to be carrying on the tradition of toxic masculinity, but luckily Ant makes a new friend who is 1000% better. Her name is Shirley and she gets teased about being tall and confident.

This was kind of like a sports story, but with a card game called Spades instead of athletics. It reminded me a bit of [b:Not an Easy Win|61356472|Not an Easy Win|Chrystal D. Giles|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1664754617l/61356472._SY75_.jpg|96769757] which featured chess. Spades is often accompanied by trash talk, but the "yo mama" jokes in this book are so old and corny. I cringed.

From the description I read, I thought Ant's recently deceased grandfather would play more of a role in the story, and while he definitely has a presence in the story, he's not talked about much. This is not a book about grieving the loss of a grandparent. It's more of a book about emotional maturity, friendship, trust, and coming to terms with a very flawed parent.

Content notes: Ant's father is an alcoholic but tries to hide it. He also has a gambling addiction. There is nothing super traumatic on the page.
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LibrarianDest | 2 other reviews | Jan 3, 2024 |
An homage to [b:The Westing Game|902|The Westing Game|Ellen Raskin|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1356850909s/902.jpg|869832] with historical context that adds a lot of depth. I liked that the plot shifted between the present-day when Candice and Brandon are trying to solve the mystery and the past events on which the mystery is based in the 1950s. Young readers will learn a lot about American history and segregation while also considering the prejudices that still run rampant today.

I thought the plotting could have been tighter and that the kids could've gotten to the puzzle-solving earlier in the book. As a mystery, this wasn't as carefully constructed as I think it could have been (not like The Westing Game, for example). But when you consider that the author was trying to give the book more of a conscience/soul than just a standard mystery, it makes sense. The twist, when it comes, is a doozy that I didn't anticipate at all.

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LibrarianDest | 31 other reviews | Jan 3, 2024 |
Independent Reading level: 3rd-7th grade.
Awards: 2019 Coretta Scott King Honor Book, Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2018, Boston Globe / Horn Book Honor winner, etc.
jjohnson28 | 31 other reviews | Nov 10, 2023 |
Representation: Black main characters

7/10, this was a good novel, and I enjoyed this one. The plot was very interesting, since it was about the concept of family tensions, and it was executed well. The characters were very fascinating, yet enjoyable to read, they were identical twins, and have their differences and similarities, which I liked. I've read books about family tensions, some of which didn't go so well, such as All About Mia, and She's the Worst, but this book actually manages to capture this issue well, which I liked. The flashbacks of the twins when they were younger were a nice touch, they got along during that time, compared to when they were in 6th grade and they drifted away momentarily, but got along again in the end. If you like a story about family, this is the book for you.… (more)
Law_Books600 | 14 other reviews | Nov 3, 2023 |



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